Pasta with Roasted Fairytale Eggplants & Peppers

pasta with fairytale eggplants and peppers

When I made this for dinner a few nights ago, Phil told me it was “very fall.”  While cooking, I had thought I had been making a very summery meal–eggplants! peppers! fresh basil and mint!– yet had to agree that my hot bowl of pasta full of roasted things was pretty damn cozy.  Even the fact that I had turned the oven on at all was evidence of the seasonal shift.  To be sure, this is a transitional dish, showcasing late summer’s abundant harvest while gently easing us into fall’s rhythms and encouraging us to slow down– even if for just a bit.
*To smash the garlic, peel each clove and pressed down gently but firmly (and very carefully!) with the side of a chef’s knife, taking care not to break the clove completely.

13 or so fairytale eggplants, stemmed and halved
2-3 red peppers (I used 3 not too big frying ones), cut into 1-1½” pieces
1 small red onion, diced medium
2 garlic cloves, gently smashed
1½-2 tbsp olive oil (enough to evenly coat vegetables)
1 12 oz package of pasta
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ cup basil, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
sea salt and black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread evenly on a roasting pan.  Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once half way through, until vegetables are tender and browning around the edges.  Remove from oven.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Just before draining, reserve about a ¼ cup of the pasta water (use a mug with a handle to scoop directly from the pot).  Drain pasta.
  • To the pasta, add the tomato paste, vinegar, and pasta water and stir to combine.  Then mix in the roasted vegetables, breaking the garlic with your spoon.  Season with salt and pepper, and top with basil and mint.

Yield: About 4 servings


Black Rice Salad with Peaches & Edamame

black rice salad with peaches and edamame

Savor summer’s last hurrahs with this colorful salad, featuring nutty and slightly sweet black rice, crunchy edamame, a tangy sesame-tamari-lime dressing, and peaches, the season’s fuzzy stone fruit darlings.  If you live in the New York tristate area, you might have noticed a peach shortage this year.  Still, they’ve been showing up at the markets, and while they might be a bit pricier than usual, they are as wonderful as ever right now, if not even more precious.
*The drop of olive oil in the rice is totally optional but very helpful if you’re like me and tend to have rice stick to the pan.  Skip it if you use a rice cooker.
*If you’d like a spicier dish, leave more of the jalapeño’s seeds and pith intact.  If you prefer a milder dish, remove all the seeds and pith.

black rice salad with peaches and edamame

1 cup black rice
drop of olive oil, optional
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
2 ripe, sweet peaches, pitted and sliced
2 scallions, light green and white part only, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, removed of most (but not all) of its pith and seeds, finely chopped
3 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
juice from 1 lime
1-2 small squirts of agave
generous handful of basil, chopped
sea salt

  • To cook the black rice, place in a small pot with 2 cups of water, a pinch of salt, and a drop of olive oil (if using).  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 40 minutes.  Turn off heat, let sit for 10 minutes (covered), then fluff with a fork.  Let cool.
  • To cook the edamame, place in a small pot and cover with water by a few inches.  Bring to a boil, then cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, until cooked through.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Dry and season with a bit of salt.
  • To make the dressing, combine tamari, sesame oil, lime juice, and agave in a jar.  Secure lid, then shake vigorously to mix.
  • Toss cooled rice with edamame, peaches, scallions, jalapeño, and dressing.  Taste for seasoning– you may wish to add more tamari and/or agave– and top with basil.  Let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to mingle, then serve.

Yield: About 4-5 servings


Easy Savory Summertime Grits

summer grits with tomatoes and basil

Full disclosure: I’m a born and bred New York stater.  I grew up eating bowls of cereal for breakfast on weekdays– I especially loved the free junky ones that came in the mail sometimes– and pancakes or bagels on the weekends.  Sometimes we had danish or donuts or eggs or oatmeal or hash browns from McDonald’s, but it wasn’t until I was a preteen traveling to Florida that I ever tried grits.  At a Waffle House no less.  As an adult, my interest in that Southern staple was rekindled by Bryant Terry’s books (particularly this one) and a new found love for polenta (make this at your next dinner party.  You’re welcome.).  My own version of savory breakfast grits is super simple and full of summer flavors, decidedly inauthentic but definitely comforting, and utterly delicious.

1 cup corn grits
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
2-2½ tbsp nutritional yeast
tomatoes, chopped
basil, chopped
extra-virgin olive oil
black pepper

In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and salt to a boil.  Add grits and reduce heat.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring somewhat often.  Remove from heat, stir in nutritional yeast, cover, and let sit for a few more minutes.  Stir again, then serve topped with chopped tomatoes and basil, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Yield: 3-4 servings

Grilled Zucchini with Chickpeas & Dill

grilled zucchini with chickpeas and dill

From bread to butter to fritters (um heck yes), zoodles, and more, zucchini is pretty much everywhere these days.  Right now, however, my favorite way to enjoy this ubiquitous summer squash is grilled.  Tossed with olive oil, lemon, chickpeas, fresh dill, and toasted pine nuts, it makes for an easy and refreshing, thoroughly summery dish.  Enjoy as a side, or make it a full meal by adding some grains and/or crusty bread.  We had it over sorghum, topped with tomatoes, Cholula, and more extra-virgin olive oil– a combination I highly recommend!
*If grilling on a regular grill, simply toss the zucchini slices with a little high heat friendly oil instead of spraying on the grill itself.
*To toast the pine nuts, heat in a dry skillet over medium heat for a couple of minutes, watching closely, just until lightly browned and fragrant.

grilled zucchini with chickpeas and dillzucchini

1½ cups cooked /15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb zucchini, ends trimmed, halved if long, cut into thin strips (~1/8-1/4” thick)
cooking spray
½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from ~½ lemon)
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup dill, chopped, plus a few bigger pieces for garnish
sea salt and black pepper

  • In a bowl, toss chickpeas with the red wine vinegar, minced garlic, and some salt and pepper.  Set aside to marinate.
  • Heat a grill pan over medium heat. When hot, spray with some cooking spray.  Cook zucchini slices , about 3-4 minutes per side, adding more cooking spray as necessary.
  • Toss grilled zucchini with chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, chopped dill, and toasted pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with extra dill fronds.

Yield: About 4 servings

grilled zucchini, chickpeas, dill, tomatoes

Snap Peas with Garlic Scapes & Radishes

snap peas with garlic scapes and radishes

I know, I know… another recipe with snap peas and garlic scapes.  In my defense, though, these ingredients rock– and I encourage you to savor them while you can.  I love garlic scapes because they lack the pungency of cloves, which can be overpowering in large amounts, yet still have plenty of savory flavor.  They very much hold their own with a certain verdant brightness and sweetness from sautéing that pairs deliciously with tender-crisp snap peas, radish, and basil.

2 cups snap peas, trimmed and de-stringed
extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic scapes, trimmed of stringy and dried ends, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
handful of small radishes, sliced thin
juice from ¼ lemon, or to taste
sea salt and black pepper
handful of fresh basil, chopped

  • Heat a pot of salted water over high heat.  Prepare a bath of ice water.  When water reaches a boil, add snap peas and cook for about 4 minutes.  Drain and immediately transfer to ice bath to cool, then drain thoroughly.
  • Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a pan.  Cook garlic scapes and red pepper flakes over medium low heat, stirring now and then, until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Toss cooled snap peas with garlic scape-oil mixture, radish slices, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper; and garnish with basil.

Yield: About 4 servings